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Open Access

What is Open Access?

“Open Access” is a term used to describe a reform movement that aims to make scholarly literature freely available on the web and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. It can also describe an item itself. For example, if a journal article is Open Access, then that means it is available for free access and, typically, unrestricted non-commercial use.

To publish something “Open Access” is in contrast to conventional publishing. Where a conventional publisher of academic journals charges money to read those journal articles, an Open Access academic journal is free to read and access online.

Open Access does not just apply to academic journal articles. Books, textbooks, datasets, and other forms can also be Open Access. Explore further information in this guide and find out ways individuals contribute to the Open Access movement.

Types of Open Access

There are several different Open Access types, which are often identified using a color system. It is important to understand what each type encompasses to determine which publication option works best for your research and scholarship needs. While this section specifically looks at the different types of Open Access journals, other publications -- such as books -- may also be identified by these types of Open Access, as well. 

Types of Open Access

The two most common types of Open Access journals are: 

  • Gold: For an academic journal article, there are journals that are purely Open Access. Every time an article is published in one of these types of journals, the articles are available to view online for free by anyone.
  • Green: Some journals allows the authors themselves to put their articles online in institutional repositories, personal website, and online faculty profiles. This is often referred to as “self-archiving,” or “green Open Access.” Being able to self-archive your published work online will depend on publisher terms and restrictions. For instance, in some cases, a publisher may not allow the author to use certain versions of their article online; or, they may have to wait a specific amount of time before they can place their articles online beyond the publisher’s website.

Other types of Open Access journals include: 

  • Hybrid: There are also academic journals that include both Open Access and subscription based journal articles. These are often called, “mixed” or “hybrid” journals, because they contain a mix of content. Readers can access the Open Access journals freely, while any articles published traditionally can only be accessed if the reader has subscription access to the journal.
  • Bronze: Some journals provide readers with free access to select articles on the journal's website. However, they do not have any clearly identified license, may only be accessible for a certain period of time, and may have restrictions about reuse and sharing. 
  • Diamond/Platinum: There are some journals that publish Open Access articles without charging the authors a fee, known as an "Article Processing Charge." Because authors do not have have to pay to publish their articles, the journal uses other sources to fund the publication. 
  • Black: This type of Open Access refers to the large-scale unauthorized digital copying of paywalled academic literature through social sharing and dedicated websites. This specific type of Open Access may provide free access to research but has challenges with regard to licensing and copyright.